After a great day at the MIM in Phoenix it was time to move on. We had some decisions to make on where we would stay, knowing that the ultimate destination was the Grand Canyon. We decided on Williams, which put us pretty close to the south entrance to the park, and drove directly there. That bypassed some potential stops that we’ll have to leave for next time, like Sedona.
The next day we headed up to Grand Canyon National Park. In the visitor center we talked with a ranger and got the kids their Junior Ranger workbooks and then walked towards the closest canyon overlook. Megan and I weren’t really sure what to expect. We had both thought separately that, after seeing Palo Duro, maybe the Grand Canyon wouldn’t be as spectacular. After all, Palo Duro is gorgeous and quite an impressive sight. Ha! Were we wrong! My first view of the canyon was breathtaking, to say the least. Amazing. Beautiful. Immense.
We walked along enjoying the views and learning about the park while the kids worked on their Junior Ranger workbooks. The Junior Ranger program is a fantastic program for kids (and their grown ups!) to learn about the history of the park, it’s unique natural features, conservancy, and respect for the land and animals. The National Parks are an incredible treasure that our family has just begun to explore and we are grateful for those that thought to protect them.
After lunch we walked up to the edge of the canyon and followed the 2.8 mile Trail of Time. This amazing interactive walking exhibit introduces visitors to all of the different types of rocks found along the canyon walls, what they’re made of, and how old they are. Each bronze marker on the walk represents 100,000 years and the trail covers two billion years ago to the present. The kids loved running from marker to marker yelling out, “I’m touching a rock from 400,000 years ago!”
We arrived at the Yavapai Geology Museum a little too late for the ranger talk that the kids needed for their Junior Ranger badge. Luckily, we found a ranger there who talked to the kids and found out what they had been learning about the Grand Canyon as well as how to take care of the park and other national parks. He was happy to sign off on their “ranger talk.” I got into a discussion with him and asked if he knew about Julius Stone, my great-grandfather, and his trip through the park. He didn’t, but we talked about some of the other early expeditions through the park. On a whim, he started looking through a few of the books in the small bookstore of the geology museum and found some references to that trip. We certainly had the ranger intrigued, and he said he was going to do more research later that week. In the larger bookstore at the front of the park, I found more information about the trek in 1909, just one year after President Theodore Roosevelt created the national park. Julius’ expedition, with Nathaniel Galloway as their guide, was only the seventh to travel the full length of the Colorado river and the first done purely for sport. The kids were very interested in the history too as they learned they had a family connection to this amazing national park.
We finished up our walk of the canyon edge and quickly made our way to get the kids sworn in as Grand Canyon National Park Junior Rangers. They were so excited and recited every word of the oath perfectly! I am very proud of each of them and everything that they learned about the park. This was truly just a small taste of all that the Grand Canyon National Park has to offer, and we look forward to returning some day.
For our last day in the area we decided to see another section of the historic Route 66 in the town of Williams. We parked and walked around the train station in town, saw two old locomotives on display, and watched a big freight train run through town. Nearby we found where the daily wild west show happens and the kids ran through, making up their own show to entertain us.
I learned a bit more about Williams in the visitor center – did you know that Williams was the last town on the old route 66 to get bypassed by the new expressway? That meant that all the way from Chicago to Illinois the only stoplight you’d reach was in Williams. We stopped for some food, did a little shopping, even more window shopping, and got back to our bus for some well deserved rest.